Divorce and the Extended Family: Ex-Etiquette

Q: I am divorced, and I want to get as far away from my ex as I possibly can. My parents, however, love him. Recently, my ex picked up our son to go camping, and I later learned that my dad went along too. I feel so betrayed! In my opinion, my divorce should have been the end of my dad's relationship with him. What is good etiquette in this situation?

A: When two people marry, more relationships are formed than the one between the two people. As time moves on, bonds are made with in-laws, who then become "Auntie," "Uncle," "Grandma" and "Grandpa" once children are added to the family. Good ex etiquette does not require those ties be broken just because the marriage that produced the child ends. Divorce severs the tie between the two people divorcing, but it does not sever the tie between extended family and the children of the divorced couple. Every divorced mom must remember that her ex is still related to her relatives through the children, and her relatives' desire to spend time with her ex may not diminish just because there has been a divorce.

It's understandable, however, why this mom feels betrayed. If she is like most, she sees her father as her dad first and her son's grandfather second and does not see the connection to her ex or understand why his relationship with her dad must continue. Many would be tempted to simply say, "Wait a minute! You're my dad. What are you doing with him?" In the midst of her hurt, if this mother began to see that her father's choice is not betrayal, but merely a desire to maintain a relationship with his grandson and the child's father, it may take some of the sting out of the situation.

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